The Importance Of Asking For Help As A Leader

Post written by

Mark Nation

Leadership speaker, executive advisor and coach. Bestselling author on purpose and values. President of Nation Leadership.

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There I was in a room filled with leaders from around the globe thinking, “I can’t believe I just said that. And I’m not sure whether my saying it was such a good idea.” These weren’t just any leaders -- they were some of the most talented and decorated individuals in their fields. Some even refer to them as gurus.

In the middle of our meeting, I had the opportunity to speak. I eventually uttered four words that were extremely difficult to divulge, but necessary if my cause were to be advanced.

Those words were, "I need your help."

I was vulnerable, which was not easy, especially with this group. The reality is, there are many four-word phrases that prove difficult for leaders to verbalize. Among the shortlist of runners-up include:

• “It was my fault.”

• “Apparently, I was wrong,"

• “I don’t really understand.”

• “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

• “I can’t do this.”

None of these phrases come easy to leaders. And yet, I believe the sentence, "I need your help," is almost always hardest to express. As difficult as it might be to say, we need to say it frequently — and mean it.

Why is it so difficult for leaders to admit they need help? Part of the issue could be what I call “the winner’s curse.” Whether it be through school, athletics or career accolades, I've found that most leaders grow through positive achievements, or "wins." As more achievements are accumulated, a sort of division can begin to form (even if very subtle and unintentional). Once consistent achievers become leaders, they can easily start to rely more frequently on their own knowledge, skills and experience to solve new challenges.

These leaders often believe others must be looking to them for answers, and by virtue of their track records, they do appear to choose well (and therefore can be trusted for good guidance). If not careful, though, a division can lead to isolation, and bravery can lead to bravado. Before you know it, leaders believe they can go it alone and conquer even the toughest assignments themselves. And the winner’s curse is born.

“I need your help,” is all it takes to break the curse. It simply invites the collection of wisdom and energy of others into the equation. With a community of problem-solvers, better outcomes are almost always guaranteed.

Here are a few powerful traits you express when you speak up and ask for help.

1. Vulnerability: Let’s be honest. The universe of things you don’t know is vastly greater than the container of things you do know. And that’s OK. Admitting your need for help expresses an authenticity that is universal among us all; you have a need or deficit that others can fill.

2. Humility: You don’t have all the answers, and that’s a good thing. It takes great courage to ask others for assistance, and people will respect you for reaching out. In some ways, your own “weakness” becomes a strength, which will attract more willing and excited helpers.

3. Value for others: By engaging others, you demonstrate that their opinions matter to you. You appeal to their unique abilities, thereby improving the odds that they will leverage those abilities to aid your cause.

4. Collaborative: We tend to throw out phrases like “team-player” all too often. But by asking for help, you not only show that you want their assistance but also need them in order to succeed. In this way, you can freely create more open space for collaboration to thrive.

5. Growth-minded: Everyone wants to learn and grow, both at and beyond work. By bringing others into your own challenges, you are allowing them the opportunity to learn and grow with you and not just from you. An added bonus: People will notice your own desire to grow with and from them, not merely through your own sheer willpower.

6. Trendsetter: As a leader, you set the tone and tenor for the office and your communities at large. Calling on others for help shows the value you place on group engagement and collective problem-solving. By modeling this characteristic, you greatly increase the chances that others will do the same.

As humans, we were made for interaction, collaboration and community. And no matter how strong we might be as individual performers, the truth is that a vast village of supporters helped us to arrive where we are today. To enjoy both business and personal successes going forward, we cannot afford to underestimate the positive roles others can play.

So, take a few moments and look around. Your team members are waiting to be engaged, challenged and assigned. Now, take a risk. Speak up. And ask for their help. You won't regret it.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
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Getty

There I was in a room filled with leaders from around the globe thinking, “I can’t believe I just said that. And I’m not sure whether my saying it was such a good idea.” These weren’t just any leaders -- they were some of the most talented and decorated individuals in their fields. Some even refer to them as gurus.

In the middle of our meeting, I had the opportunity to speak. I eventually uttered four words that were extremely difficult to divulge, but necessary if my cause were to be advanced.

Those words were, "I need your help."

I was vulnerable, which was not easy, especially with this group. The reality is, there are many four-word phrases that prove difficult for leaders to verbalize. Among the shortlist of runners-up include:

• “It was my fault.”

• “Apparently, I was wrong,"

• “I don’t really understand.”

• “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

• “I can’t do this.”

None of these phrases come easy to leaders. And yet, I believe the sentence, "I need your help," is almost always hardest to express. As difficult as it might be to say, we need to say it frequently — and mean it.

Why is it so difficult for leaders to admit they need help? Part of the issue could be what I call “the winner’s curse.” Whether it be through school, athletics or career accolades, I've found that most leaders grow through positive achievements, or "wins." As more achievements are accumulated, a sort of division can begin to form (even if very subtle and unintentional). Once consistent achievers become leaders, they can easily start to rely more frequently on their own knowledge, skills and experience to solve new challenges.

These leaders often believe others must be looking to them for answers, and by virtue of their track records, they do appear to choose well (and therefore can be trusted for good guidance). If not careful, though, a division can lead to isolation, and bravery can lead to bravado. Before you know it, leaders believe they can go it alone and conquer even the toughest assignments themselves. And the winner’s curse is born.

“I need your help,” is all it takes to break the curse. It simply invites the collection of wisdom and energy of others into the equation. With a community of problem-solvers, better outcomes are almost always guaranteed.

Here are a few powerful traits you express when you speak up and ask for help.

1. Vulnerability: Let’s be honest. The universe of things you don’t know is vastly greater than the container of things you do know. And that’s OK. Admitting your need for help expresses an authenticity that is universal among us all; you have a need or deficit that others can fill.

2. Humility: You don’t have all the answers, and that’s a good thing. It takes great courage to ask others for assistance, and people will respect you for reaching out. In some ways, your own “weakness” becomes a strength, which will attract more willing and excited helpers.

3. Value for others: By engaging others, you demonstrate that their opinions matter to you. You appeal to their unique abilities, thereby improving the odds that they will leverage those abilities to aid your cause.

4. Collaborative: We tend to throw out phrases like “team-player” all too often. But by asking for help, you not only show that you want their assistance but also need them in order to succeed. In this way, you can freely create more open space for collaboration to thrive.

5. Growth-minded: Everyone wants to learn and grow, both at and beyond work. By bringing others into your own challenges, you are allowing them the opportunity to learn and grow with you and not just from you. An added bonus: People will notice your own desire to grow with and from them, not merely through your own sheer willpower.

6. Trendsetter: As a leader, you set the tone and tenor for the office and your communities at large. Calling on others for help shows the value you place on group engagement and collective problem-solving. By modeling this characteristic, you greatly increase the chances that others will do the same.

As humans, we were made for interaction, collaboration and community. And no matter how strong we might be as individual performers, the truth is that a vast village of supporters helped us to arrive where we are today. To enjoy both business and personal successes going forward, we cannot afford to underestimate the positive roles others can play.

So, take a few moments and look around. Your team members are waiting to be engaged, challenged and assigned. Now, take a risk. Speak up. And ask for their help. You won't regret it.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

Leadership speaker, executive advisor and coach. Bestselling author on purpose and values. President of Nation Leadership.